Willow Smith’s ‘The 1st’ Has a New, Mature Sound

By Ahmad Khalif, Contributing Writer

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Willow Smith&squot;s "The 1st"
The album cover is a photography of Willow taken by Tyler Cole. Collected from Genius. https://genius.com/albums/Willow-smith/The-1st

Willow Smith continues her evolution from child pop star to soulful contemporary artist with her second album, “The 1st,” as it builds an emotional connection among listeners.

For the new album cover, we get an up-close-and-personal shot of Smith looking deep in contemplation. Smith revealed to Refinery29, “This album is the first step into me diving 100 percent into my musicality.”

Smith tells “the Rolling Stones” that, “I’ve been trying to put myself in more uncomfortable positions musically and this is my first step.”

The first track, “Boy”, shows this artist has come a long way from her headbanging first single, “Whip My Hair.” Smith sings a confessional track, elegantly describing her newfound love for her boyfriend. As the theatrical intro continues, she delves deeper into her feelings on love and God.

This subtly leads into “An Awkward Life of an Awkward Girl.” Her piano composition is the delivery of an honest approach on her own authentic sounds.

“And Contentment” is the first song on this album that really puts the spotlight on her vocal range and expertise. Smith has no trouble transitioning from what sounds like a soothing ghosts’ chorus to a powerful witch’s summoning chant, which is backed by an equally frightening drum line. The combination is quite the thriller.

“Ho’ ihi Interlude” is a callback to her use of tribal instruments in “ARDIPITHECUS.” The brew that mixes with a combination of her voice, choice of flute, and newly learned guitar chords is entrancing. This track walks listeners to a gate of enlightenment Smith is experiencing first hand.

“Israel” is a gentle piece recognizing the sadness of a friend and attempting to get him to fight on through life.

“Oh No!!!” calls forth more of Smith’s tribal flair with a speedy but brittle drum line. This track is a realization of how deeply in love she is and how scary this experience is for her.

“Warm Honey” is soulful experience showing her search for love. This soulful open-mic night setting is kicked down and “Human Leech” rings in with all its raw angst. As Smith’s vocals give light to these feelings, she undergoes a progression of thought, talking about a significant lover who “sucks the life” out of her.

Truly a call to headbangers and shower singers still not over someone they know only drains them of energy, “Lonely Road” is a follow-up to the thought of cutting off leech-like. The trumpet coupled with her voice on this track and the violin side by side with Smith’s very own guitar strumming is just the kind of music I live for.

“A Reason” is a philosophical account on finding a purpose in life. Her final track “Romance” with its shimmering Spanish chords, questions falling in love. This album only fails to interest me on the tracks “Israel” and “A Reason”. These two songs were not as supported by Smith’s instrumentality and lacked the spontaneity of her other songs.

“The 1st” has allowed me to fall in love with Willow Smith as a musician once again. There were not many similarities throughout the album besides Smith’s wonderfully soulful voice. I look forward to her progression later in her career as she masters more instruments and social experiences to detail.

Willow Smith dropped her second album “The 1st” on Oct. 31, following up her 2015 “ARDIPITHECUS” album.

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